Essentials of Presentations

Lesson P1


You have a brilliant idea or product that you are eager to tell your audience about. It is so good, you can’t lose – right? Wrong!

Many proposals or contracts have been lost because people have ignored the essentials of presentations.

Effective Presentation?

To make an effective presentation you need four elements:

  1. The correct organization and structure of the presentation.
  2. The correct way the content is organized.
  3. The presentation technique
  4. Using appropriate graphic design principles.

In this first lesson we will focus on the the organization and structure. Many presentations fail because this is neglected. The other points will be pointed out in these lessons, but they are discussed in detail in the Graphic Design and Build Your Language Skills courses.

A. Who is the presenter?

This sounds obvious – it is you! You do the talking, not PowerPoint! It is your personality, and confidence that is needed. Many a presentation is ruined by people putting all the text on the slides. Then the text becomes so small that we end up squinting, while try to read the text …. and we are no longer listening to YOU.

In essence a presentation is you talking, you do not need PowerPoint. In many cases giving a presentation without PowerPoint is preferable.

Similarly the use of too many photos and illustrations can distract us from focusing on what you are saying. The same goes for using too many fancy animations – we try and guess how she is going to animate the next slide that we have forgotten what the presenter’s point was.

It must add value
You should understand that your slides must add value to your presentation. It can help people understand the structure of your presentation and help the audience to visualize and remember the information.

If you do this correctly and professionally, your audience will love you for it and their confidence in you will grow as a result – and you are halfway there!

B . The Importance of Structure

If the information is presented to you in a logical, structured way, so that you almost can predict what she is going to say next, your brain says “yes, that makes sense, that is what I had expected!” and the feel good hormones start flowing!

If you get the structure right, it will also help to avoid the distractions we discussed above.

A Proper PowerPoint Presentation

The basic idea is that the title slide is what your presentation is all about and who the presenter is.

Next follows a Summary Slide where you tell them what you are going to tell them. This summary slide will say something like “In this presentation I will cover…” and then you list the titles of your 6 content slides. Then the audience knows where you are going.

Then follow the body of the presentation.

Then to conclude another summary slide, it will say “To summarize, I have covered…” and you list the 6 slide titles again. This reinforces the point you were making and helps people to remember. So now you tell them what you said you were going to tell them! OK, I know I have said that enough times already – I am trying to stress how important this lesson is.

Wait until you see how beautifully this ties in with how Microsoft has designed PowerPoint mobile to make this possible with minimum effort, making your smartphone a veritable presentation POWERHOUSE!

C. The Golden Rule

Many presenters write too much text on their slides. This causes the audience to stop listening to the presenter while they try and read the text, which will be often be quite small.

The golden rule solves this problem. It is actually quite simple and is shown graphically below—using a graphic will help to keep it in your memory!

What does that mean?

Basically the following:

  • Your presentation should make one point and consist of 6 content slides only.
  • Each slide should cover one topic, consist of up to 6 bullet points, and
  • Each bullet point can have up to 6 words

This makes it easy for the audience to follow. As there is little text on the slides, they are obligated to listen to the presenter, which is what you want.

Follow this guide and your presentations will be effective and not boring.

Based on that, the individual content slides would look like this:

Content slide

So a typical content slide would have a title that makes ONE point; and this point is expanded upon by SIX bullet points; each bullet point makes ONE point and this can be described by SIX words. I think you get the idea!

Hey, don’t sweat it! See the note below…

NOTE: I conceived the Golden Rule, you will not find it in text books. I have taught many dozens of PowerPoint courses in adult and continuing education classes and in special workshops for companies, often as part of larger marketing, planning, and project management workshops; I have even written manuals for Microsoft’ Office Certification Program.

I KNOW that the points made in this lesson are vital to successful presentations! They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but I have taught presentation with PowerPoint, using these principles in the presentation on Making Successful Presentations to senior executives, and some have come up to me afterwards to thank me, it was the first time that they understood presentations, it was explained so logically, not like when I asked my son to show me PowerPoint! You bet it made me feel good.

So am I possessive about the Golden Rule? (Perhaps a little) But no, I created it because I want people to get this presentation thing right – we all benefit from it. So feel free to tell others about Heidi’s Golden Rule. But I called it a Rules because rules are made to be broken. So if you need seven slides to make your point or one slide has only 3 bullets, and so on, go for it! Keep in mind that the further you stray from one over 6×6, the greater the risk that Heidi’s Golden Rule will come back to bite you :-)!

Just for fun!
I was teaching in Ladner, a town not far from my New Westminster, a class of obviously senior citizens. I had developed the habit, a very bad habit I learned, that when I see older people in the class I would encourage them that I have lots of experience teaching seniors, and should not hesitate to ask questions. And I am 61 myself.

They burst out laughing, it was contagious so I joined in. They were all from the Ladner Octogenarian Club. The course was fairly technical – Understanding Your Digital Camera but they managed just fine!

Now that I am a year away from being able to join there club I realize how ageist my remarks were, but this old dog has learned a few tricks!

In the next lesson we will apply these principles to a real presentation.

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